The King Stag

The deer rut is in full swing here where I live, and out on the heath the stags are calling, fighting and just generally being splendid. Here are some shots that I got this week – sadly, I couldn’t take any photos of the clashes, as it was too dark with evening coming swiftly on!

Summer solstice ritual

Last night a couple of friends and I went out onto the heath to celebrate the summer solstice. We have a tight-knit little group of friends, who feel a deep and abiding love of this land and who choose to celebrate it with spontaneous ritual. Tired as we were, we decided to forego the planned ritual in the backyard around the firepit and instead sought the wildnerness of the heath.

The clouds came in and it looked ominous, but we just smiled and headed out into the wilds with our drums. We came across small herds of young deer almost straight away, maybe a year old, hanging out together like many teenagers do. We made our way to a small wood of beech and pine trees, just before the rain began to fall softly.

The smell of green and growing things was all around us, the canopy of beech trees waving in the wind above us. Beneath the tall, grey trunks lay the remains of a fallen tree, a perfect altar around which we stood, pulling our drums out of our bags. Without a word we spread out around the altar, pulling drums out of our bags and beginning to drum softly, the heartbeat of the land at dusk.

Warming to the heartbeat, we let it die away into the quiet of the deepening dark. We then took a few deep breaths, allowing the energy of the land and the time of year to infuse our spirit. The drums then began to beat again, a rising rhythm of joy and celebration, ringing out to all who could hear. And indeed, many did hear – a herd of young deer came running over to us, to see what was going on, their inquisitive eyes watching us, then recognising us and resuming their normal business.

We began to chant, a chant to Elen, which merged into a chant of the summer solstice. We sang of the land around us, honouring all that was happening in that moment. Fully immersed in the serpent energy swirling around us at this sacred time of the year, we allowed the awen to flow through us, as vehicles for the inspiration to come through and be expressed in deep reverence and joy.

As the darkness deepened we moved to a lighter patch beneath the beech trees, and began to dance. We dance the sacred round, hand to hand.

We then moved out onto the open heath, the wind picking up and the setting sun glowing in the north-west. The crescent moon appeared every now and then from behind tattered clouds in the west. We spoke of our thanks for our blessings, of the courage to walk into the dark half of the year, of the brilliance and our thanks for the light and for the teachings of the coming darkness.

As the sun disappeared beneath the horizon we made our way home, across the sandy soil and past the field of green barley, harvested last week. Where our bodies were previously tired, smiles now replaced yawns, and our bodies hummed with the wonderful energy of the summer solstice.

May we be the awen.

A Deer Little Moment…

So, I’m strapping on my snowshoes, minding my own business, when I feel something beside me and see a brownish blur out of the corner of my eye. I think, “Someone’s dog is around from the car park.” I finish doing up one shoe and reach over for the other one, looking up – right into the face of a white-tailed deer. Astounded, I look the other way and there’s another one. And another one. Four suddenly surrounded us, four stealthy ninja deer who came out of nowhere and figured that they outnumbered us, so it should be okay. I had some sunflower seeds in my pocket for the chickadees, which they soon munched up straight from my hand. An absolutely wonderful, magical moment… as quickly as they arrived, they left, silently melting back into the woods. Did I mention that I had been praying to Elen of the Ways every morning?  We had a wonderful two days of snowshoeing after that.

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Elen – The Wild Spirit

This is a reblog from my channel at SageWoman. Photo credit: Keeper of the Forest, by Rania Maria

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She is with me – I can feel Her as soon as I step out the door.  She calls to me, she pulls me further away from the houses of humanity, deeper into the wilds; the windswept heath, the dark forest, the bright birch glades.  I smile and answer her call with a song in my heart, my footsteps getting lighter and lighter as I head out to meet Her. I walk taller, with more grace, my body flowing and moving without the restrictions that are usually placed upon it.  I feel an almost eldritch tingling in my blood – the awen is awakened.

My sense of self fades away, sloughing off in evanescent shades flowing behind me to melt into nothingness.  I blend in with my surroundings – wearing faded greens and browns but also my personal space, my nemeton, dissolving into the land around me. This dissolution, this immersion in the landscape brings me closer to Her.

Each step is a sacred prayer.  Gentle, aware, heel rolling to toe, I feel the earth beneath my feet.  This land is holy ground.  The air is sweet, tinged with scents of Spring and I see it reflected in the budding narcissus, the already blooming crocus.  The birds have changed their songs to those that speak of warmth and sunshine, soft rains and the greening.

My joy in Her flows out of me and back inwards in an endless cycle.  That joy is a quiet joy – there is no need to shout, no need for a fuss.  It is pure, it is simple. It is utter awareness of the present moment, and the present moment is all that there is.

I look into the shadows beneath a stand of low pines, and there they are – her children.  A small herd, of about a dozen, lie beneath the darkened canopy where no footpaths lie.  Here they can rest undisturbed.  I greet them ever so softly with my mind – I do not enter into myself to do this – it is merely an honouring and acknowledgement of their beauty without breaking the immersion in the present moment.

I continue on, blessed by the gift of seeing her children.  I know that I will see more.  I know too that I am of Her, related to Her, to her children.  She is within me and I am within her. The deer are within me and I am within them.  I only have to open my awareness to this to see the brilliance of this blessed gift. So simple, so easy.

The sunlight is warm upon my skin, the breeze is cool, playing with my hair and scarves, making them dance in the wind.  I come to a very special place, and there they are – a herd seventy strong.  They see me and wait – I wait also, allowing them the first move.  The leaders are then startled by something, and they run across the open grassland from forest cover to the cover of brush, all in a line, along a sacred trackway that they have made over hundreds of years.  This is Her trackway, and I watch with soaring spirit as they follow the flow of spirit across the heath.

I go to the birch trees to offer my greetings and leave a gift – a brilliant white egg-shaped stone I found amongst the heather.  I then make my way back across the heath, coming across the trackway that cuts the green sward in half.  I can still feel their energy – their silent, swift energy running towards the pine trees and dried bracken.  As I cross that line, I feel it moving through me, and I swirl it through my soul before letting it run free again along the deer path.  I am filled with golden light.

I can feel Her eyes upon me, watching from the forest edge.  Her antlered head is thrown back with laughter, Her green eyes dancing even as my soul dances.  Silently she shares in my joy and I in Hers, and then she disappears.

I make my way back towards home – there are a couple of deer hidden among the brush near to one of the paths I wish to take. I do not want to startle them – I choose another path.  Moving along the forest edge I look up, and see the large herd again, this time ghosting through the trees, running silently and swiftly between the beech trunks, flashes of light and darkness.  I bend down where I stand and bring my hands to the rich mossy ground.  Looking down, my pale skin shines silver-white in the light against the vibrant green of the soft carpet, as if moonlight, not sunlight shone upon them.  I close my eyes and breathe deep into the earth, giving of myself to Her.

Making my way homewards, I am always loathe to leave Her sacred ground.  She is always within my heart, and always within my spirit – a sense of wildness, of laughter and play, of wariness and strength.  She is muted when indoors, but She is there, deep within my soul even as I greet my Lady of Sanctuary upon entering the home. She smiles and reaches out to her Sister, Nemetona, the Lady of the Sacred Grove.

She is Elen, the wild goddess.  I honour Her with all that I am.

To find out more about my writing, please visit my author page at Amazon, where you will details on the No.1 bestseller, The Awen Alone: Walking the Path of the Solitary Druid, as well as new releases such as Zen for Druids and my upcoming book, The Crane Bag: A Druid’s Guide to Ritual Tools and Practices available July 2017.